Vale Mary Oliver
Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 09:06PM

Walking almost always cheers me. But on Christmas Eve, not even a saunter through my neighbourhood could lift my spirits. It was a gorgeous day. And I love Christmas: the worship and the music, the food and the gathering of the clans. I was at the start of more than three weeks off work and I was looking forward enormously to this spell of rest and time in the open air.

But I was down. Blue in a way that tends to happen at the end of the year, when I am simply worn out. Once again it had been a year with what felt like more than its fair share of death, illness, bad news and intimidatingly complicated tasks needing urgent attention.

I did one of my usual local perambulations through the string of parks we are lucky enough to live near, up bustling Sydney Road and along small suburban streets. When I was almost home, I was halted in my tracks by a flowering gum at the edge of an oval: the brightest, most iridescent orange I had seen for a long time.

‘Oh!’, I exclaimed out loud, involuntarily. I stopped and gazed at the cheery, outrageous display of colour and saw another wonder contained within it; an aptly named rainbow lorikeet. I was only two feet away, but the bird was not threatened. Head on one side, it regarded me quizzically and long.

‘Hello’, I breathed, which seems to be the word that springs unbidden to my lips whenever I am surprised by the sight of an animal or bird. ‘Hello’, soft and gentle and delighting.

I stood there for a while, the bird and I taking each other in, and then the creature was off, and I went on my way, rejoicing.

When I am sunk in despair, grief, deep weariness or self-pity, sometimes the antidote is as simple as soaking myself in the natural world. This can take two minutes on a Brunswick street, as happened on Christmas Eve. Or it can be a longer immersion. In the new year I spent a fortnight at the beach, when I spent hours each day wandering on the sand and swimming in the ocean. Each moment, I felt profoundly held by mother nature and the Creator God, being healed and restored.

It is a wonderful thing to take solace in the created world, which the Creator declared good. But it is not all about me. Bearing witness to wonder is work in which the Creator God takes delight, because where there is wonder, there cannot be cynicism or violence.

One of the best witnesses to wonder I know of is legendary, Pulitzer Prize winning nature poet and Christian Mary Oliver who died recently. In one of my favourite of her works, Messenger, she writes the lines:

My work is loving the world…

Let me keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

 Vale Mary Oliver

This was published in the February issue of The Melbourne Anglican




Article originally appeared on Clare's Blog (
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